Every day that goes by I’m less impressed with me, and more impressed with Jeaus.
(Tied for the most popular post of 2014 so far, from the archives)
Read Genesis 39:6-23
I don’t know what Joseph’s early responsibilities were when he first began at Potiphar’s house, but they may have been intensely physical, because Joseph was ripped (“well built” verse six tells us). He was also a good looking guy. And because of this, Joseph’s master’s wife notices him, and begins to proposition him, without much in the way of subtlety either.
“Come to bed with me!” she says to him.
But Joseph consistently refuses her. He says, Hey look, my master has such trust in me, he doesn’t concern himself with anything in the house; he’s put everything he owns in my care. I’m the top guy here. He’s kept nothing of his from me, except for you, because you’re his wife. So, with all that in mind, how could I possibly do such a terrible thing, and sin against God?
But in spite of his refusals, she persists. Day, after day, after day she continues to proposition him. But Joseph continues to refuse to go to bed with her, or even to be with her.
One day though, he goes into the house to do his work, and the place is empty. None of the other servants are around. Potiphar’s wife is the only one there. She grabs him by his cloak and says (for the one thousandth time), “Come to bed with me!” But he escapes out of his cloak, leaving it in her hand, and runs out of the house.
When she realizes Joseph left his cloak in her hand when he fled, she calls in her servants and says, Look! This Hebrew is making a joke of us! He came in here to have his way with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream, he left his cloak laying here beside me and ran.
She keeps his cloak next to her until Potiphar comes home, and she tells him her story: That Hebrew slave guy you brought us came into my room to force himself on me. But fortunately, I screamed, and as soon as I did he left his cloak beside me and ran. This is how your slave has treated me!
After Potiphar hears the story he’s outraged. He takes Joseph and has him locked up in the prison where the king’s prisoners are kept.
But, while Joseph’s in the king’s prison, the Lord is with him again! God shows him kindness and grants Joseph favor with the warden. Eventually his situation is the same or similar to when he was with Potiphar. The warden puts Joseph in charge of all the prisoners and gives him the job of running the place. And like Potiphar, the warden trusts him completely, he pays no attention to anything Joseph’s responsible for, because the Lord is with Joseph, and gives him success in everything he puts his hand to.
Joseph’s 5 Steps to Avoid Temptation
Joseph, a young man, in the prime of his life and possessing all the desires young men in the prime of their life possess, somehow avoids this temptation from Potiphar’s wife.
How’d he do that?
We see from our story, he took 5 steps.
1) Responsibility — Take It
We see in verse 9, Joseph says the words, “How then could I do such a…”
“How then could I…” Joseph said. He took responsibility for his own behavior. How many might have said, “Well what could I do? I’m just a slave and she’s the boss’s wife. I mean, really, I couldn’t refuse now could I?” Or, “Come on, give me a break, this was a situation where an older woman took advantage of a young man. What would you expect someone my age to do, with hormones raging? How could I help it?”
No, Joseph didn’t go there. He took responsibility for his own actions.
2) Recognize Sin
We see in verse 9, Joseph recognizes what Potiphar’s wife wants as something wickedand terrible. Joseph sees it for what it is: sin. The Bible is God’s word for humanity. He loves us enough to define sin in His scriptures and to warn us away from it. He does so not because he’s against pleasure, but because He knows in the long run, sin is disastrous for you. He’s trying to spare you from heartache and pain you’ll experience in the end, though you may experience pleasure in the short term. Today there’s a huge push in our culture to discount what the Bible says about sin as old fashioned and irrelevant. Right now there’s actually a website author offering 1 million dollars for Tim Tebow’s virginity. This person’s stated goal is to bring our culture to the point where adultery is viewed as inconsequential. (see Washington Post article by Esther Fleece) I know that might seem unlikely right now, but many sins that were previously recognized as bad behavior have already been brought a long way toward a perception they’re trivial, or even a perception those who commit a given sin are victims.
Joseph didn’t discount what Potiphar’s wife asked him to do. He saw it for what it was. So should you and I.
3) Respond to God
We see in the last part of verse 9 how Joseph recognizes, if he gratifies his desires, he will sin against God. Joseph has a depth of relationship with God such that it would grieve Joseph to sin against Him. He can’t bear to sin because he can’t bear to disappoint the God he loves. Yes he’s loyal to his earthly master Potiphar, but in the end, it’s God who Joseph is most concerned about. Living your life loving God, and concerned about God and what He thinks is one of the great keys to living the abundant life God has in mind for you. (John 15:11) “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind,’” Jesus said in Matthew 22:37. (See previous post: How to Love Like Jesus — God First)
4) Refuse to be Present
We see in verse 10 he not only refused to go to bed with Potiphar’s wife, but he refused toeven be with her. I wonder how many marriages would still be intact if both the husband and the wife decided to simply avoid putting themselves in situations that might lead to temptation. I’m talking about not friending the old high school flame on Facebook. I’m talking about staying out of bars. I’m talking about never allowing yourself to be alone with another person of the opposite sex, ever.
What a small price to pay if it results in you keeping your family intact.
And what a heavy price to pay if you break your family apart.
Today divorce is so acceptable, our culture has endorsed it so strongly, most are so nonchalant about it, you never hear much concerning its consequences. But five years after divorce more than 1/3 of children experience depression. Kids from divorced families are less successful in life than children from intact families, especially in their careers and their relationships. And the great majority of children from divorced families say they want their original family back together.
After a divorce, custody usually goes to the mother. And about half of all single mothers live below the poverty line — on average for six years. For African American single mothers it’s even worse: 2/3 are still single and in poverty 10 years after their divorce. (The Atlantic, McLanahan-Garfinkel)
No one talks about these things. You never see these findings in the news.
Joseph was a slave and didn’t have control of his own life to the degree you do. Yet he did his best to avoid putting himself in situations where he might be tempted. You can do the same.
We see in verse 12, when he was unavoidably confronted with temptation, he fled. He left. He split immediately.
He didn’t stop and use the moment to teach Potiphar’s wife about his faith. He didn’t hesitate and share with her that he’s flattered but must decline, or how it’s nothing personal, or how it might be different under different circumstances. He didn’t spend one moment on one word of conversation. And he didn’t go back for his coat. He bailed, he beat it, he bounced out of there — right away.
Again, how many marriages might still be intact if this were how people responded to sexual temptation.
Next time you’re confronted with temptation: leave, immediately.
Of course Potiphar’s wife had no integrity when it came to her marriage, and we see she had no integrity when she gave her account of what happened either. She lied and told her husband the Hebrew tried to rape her, using Joseph’s coat as a false proof of her deception. Interestingly, Joseph’s coat was also central to his brother’s deception before Jacob concerning his death.
We live in a fallen world. You can do everything according to God’s word and still wind up in a dungeon.
But Potiphar’s response is interesting because the punishment for attempted rape was death. And even though Joseph, a slave, was (wrongly) found to have attempted rape against the wife of a powerful official, Joseph is not put to death but put in prison. Verse 19 says Potiphar was angry but doesn’t say who he was angry with. Perhaps he recognized Joseph’s innocence but was forced to do something because of his wife’s insistence. Perhaps he even gave instruction for the warden to show Joseph favor.
Whether it came through Potiphar or not, God was the reason Joseph found favor in prison.
Even in the dungeon God was with Joseph.
Nothing can separate us from His love.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:9-12)
When I was 9 years old I lived just south of Chicago, at 14910 South Kenton St., in Midlothian, Illinois. Somehow all the other kids on that street rejected me. They unanimously decided to exclude me from all their games and group activities. It was pretty bad. The level of hostility was pretty high. One time they even staged a demonstration on the sidewalk in front of my house. I’ll never forget it. They had picket signs and everything. They marched back and forth in front of the house yelling, “We want Honey Bear (camp), not Kurt Bennett!” (Kind of a weird slogan for a protest, I know. But they were grade schoolers after all.) As a nine year old that was disturbing on a level that’s hard to describe. But I probably deserved it. I was a pretty obnoxious kid at 9 years old.
Jesus was rejected too. But he wasn’t obnoxious. Jesus was nothing but loving and kind and compassionate and holy. Jesus was full of grace. But in spite of his pure and perfect nature, the true light, which gives light to everyone, the One who came into the world, the one through whom the world was made, he was rejected. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus was rejected by the vast majority of people who knew him.
Last post I mentioned God’s enthusiasm for our free will. I want to talk about that and how it relates to people who reject Jesus. But first a word about Blaise Pascal.
Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and physicist who laid the foundation for the modern theory of probability. His father appointed himself as his educator and, curiously, decided to omit mathematics from Blaise’s curriculum, so Blaise could focus on the languages (especially Latin and Greek) and the classics. This had the opposite effect from that which was desired and young Blaise found all things mathematical to be irresistible. At 18 Blaise Pascal invented one of the first calculators. At 24 he began his work called The Generation of Conic Sections. He was only 31 when he discovered the fixed likelihood of seemingly random events based on probability. Nicklaus Wirth invented a computer language in the 70s and insisted on naming it after Pascal, in honor of Pascal’s calculator which was one of the very earliest forms of the modern computer. Blaise Pascal died of cancer at the age of 39. (biography.com)
Pascal was a genius. He was also a Christian. And I think you’ll see that he had an important insight about why God allowed (and allows) Jesus to suffer such rejection.
How I Would Do It If I Were God
So why did God do it the way He did it? Why did He send His Son, “the exact representation of His nature,” into the world as a baby? (Hebrews 1:3) This One through whom all things were made, why did He make him so vulnerable? And why did He allow people to reject Jesus the way they did? And why does He allow people to reject Jesus the way they do today? Why doesn’t he just show Himself, to each and every generation? He’s God right? So He certainly could show Himself. Or He could at least send an angel to each generation. Or maybe He could carve out instructions for us on some monolithic rock in a desert somewhere, in a way that no human ever could–so we would know, for sure.
Any of those methods might be how I would do it.
I hear atheists and theists say similar things. Why didn’t God write an About page in the form of a constellation telling us about Himself? Why wouldn’t he offer proof of His existence? But God didn’t do it that way, and as you’ll see, Pascal offers insight into the reason why God did things the way He did.
Why Doesn’t God Prevent Us From Rejecting His Son
It puzzles me, but God seems to be enthralled with the idea of free will. He’s enthralled with it way beyond me or anyone I know. I’m the kind of guy who likes to back up a phone call with an email. I like to arrange things so they can’t miss. I never would have put the tree of good and evil in the garden. I would have explained to Cain ahead of time that he was forbidden to harm Abel. I would have taken Samson on a retreat until he cooled off on Delilah. I would have made sure Bathsheba’s bathtub wasn’t in view of David’s castle.
But God didn’t do it that way. God set things up exactly the opposite. God always ensures a choice. He arranges things so we have freedom. God sets things up to ensure our free will. He’s completely committed to this idea of free will, so much so that this statement by Pascal seems to nail it. God arranged the universe so that:
“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”
The True Light Which Gives Light To Everyone
In the scripture quoted at the top of this post, John writes that Jesus is the true light which gives light to everyone. God gives that light to every single one of us, but it’s up to us whether or not to receive it. Most of the people who knew Jesus chose to reject him. A minority chose to receive him and he gave them “the right to become children of God.”
You might be on the fence right now. Maybe you’re wondering whether or not Jesus is real. If you are, it’s because God wants it that way. He wants you to have a choice. In my experience those who seek after God’s light are rewarded with more of God’s light. And those who reject him find darkness. I think at some level you recognize that’s true. God tells us directly that, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Pascal is right. We all have a choice. And God wants it that way. He’s provided enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.
Seek after the light. Give yourself to Him. Accept Jesus, not as a Savior, not even as the Savior, but accept Jesus as your Savior. Pray to Him. Confess to Him that you have sin in your life, as we all do. Confess to Him your need for the redemptive work His Son did for you on the cross. Receive the Jesus the Light into your heart and your life.
He gave His light, His Son Jesus, to everyone.
You have but to receive it.
You might also like Doubt, Faith, and Reason: Genuine Seeker (Part 3)
Questions? Please email me at email@example.com.
[Image via Tehmina Goskar – Creative Commons]
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. John 1:6-8
The Most Inclusive Of All Religions
John the Apostle wrote those words about John the Baptist. God sent John the Baptist so all might believe through him. All–everyone–every single human being. That’s what God wants. And He went to extreme lengths to make that possible. He sent the Light, His own Son, to die on your behalf. Unlike other religions, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It’s not dependent on the works you do or the depth of your meditative state. Christianity is the most inclusive of all religions. Anyone, anyone at all, can receive the Light who is Jesus Christ. “This is the work of God,” Jesus said, “that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
“…that all might believe,” that is God’s heart.
But as you read the scripture at the top of this post you might be saying to yourself, Continue reading
The Life And The Light
In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5
Napoleon Bonaparte And Jesus
Have you ever heard what Napoleon Bonaparte said about Jesus? Toward the end of his life Bonaparte was living in exile on St. Helena, a remote island in the South Atlantic. It was there that he said to his friend General Bertrand: “I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison.”
Many believe Bonaparte converted to Christianity while living in exile on that island. Bonaparte recognized that Jesus is more than a man. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Hello Darkness My Old Friend
“Hello darkness my old friend” Simon and Garfunkel sang in the seventies. There’s darkness in your life. I know there is because Continue reading
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. John 1:1-3
The Exact Representation of God’s Nature
In the beginning was the Word. The Word with a capital W. The Word is logos in the Greek and it means a thought. The capital W means the Word is divine. The Word is what John calls Jesus in the first verse of the gospel of John. In other words, Jesus The Word is the expression of God’s thoughts. Jesus is a living expression of God’s mind. Or as the writer of Hebrews tells us, Jesus is the exact representation of His nature. (Hebrews 1:3)
When Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus answered,“Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-21)
The God We Can’t Understand
And we’re so immensely blessed by Jesus’ incarnation. Think this through with me: If you believe Continue reading
Myra Thompson, a relative of one of the Charleston shooting victims:
“I forgive him and my family forgives him. But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent” and “give your life to the one who matters most: Christ.”
Powerful Words of Forgiveness, Washington Post, June 19, 2015
If You’re A Christian There Was A Death In Your Family Wednesday Night
Witnesses said the gunman specifically asked for the church’s well-known pastor, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, who was also a state senator, and sat next to him in the Bible study. First he listened, they said, then he argued, and eventually he began ranting against black people, until finally, he stood, drew a gun and fired, reloading as many as five times.
He fatally shot six women and three men, ranging in age from 26 to 87. Among the dead was Mr. Pinckney. (New York Times, 6-19-15)
Nine people. Nine people were murdered, during a Bible study just the other night. There’s anger and outrage all over the country because of it. But you know what? Even before this tragedy there was anger and outrage everywhere. Everywhere we look we see it. We see it on Instagram, Facebook, TV, and Twitter where friends, family, talking heads, and politicians rage against one thing or another. Or against one person or another. Do you ever share your anger and outrage? Or do you ever have urges to share your anger and outrage?
Did you know there is someone in the Bible like that? Continue reading
In so many words, a thirty-something asked me this question the other day: God is unfathomable anyway, so what’s the point of trying to figure Him out? And I believe it’s one of the best questions one can ask. It’s a great question first of all, because of the truth present within the question. God is unfathomable. God tells us directly and plainly:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
And it’s good that He’s beyond our understanding. As it’s been said, a God who’s small enough to understand isn’t big enough to worship. So my thirty-something friend is right. Without question, God is beyond our comprehension.
Explaining Quantum Physics To Sheep Herders Continue reading